by Shauna Klein
Brandon awoke to the sun streaming in his window through a crack in the curtain. He watched the dust particles float and swirl in the light until he heard the sound of his mother yelling at him.
“Brandon, get down here and eat something if you plan on hanging out today with your little friend.”
Brandon’s little friend happened to be his very best friend that lived a few blocks away. Brandon had grown up in the same house since he was born, but Billy had moved to town just a few months ago. While they had little in common other than sharing a zip code, what started out as the two of them sharing the same bus stop had turned into a bond that only 12 year old boys can have.
Today was Saturday, and the two boys had planned on walking down to the creek to swim. The summer sun was sweltering even at 8 a.m. but Brandon didn’t care—all he could think about was hanging out with Billy and going exploring. The swimming was just part of what they’d told their parents, but they also loved to explore the woods and since it was fairly close to home, Brandon’s parents allowed him to go; Billy’s parents simply didn’t care.
Brandon tried to eat his cereal as fast as possible, but his mom kept a watchful eye on him, making him take his time, which only seemed to make the corn flakes soggy and unappetizing.
“Next time, why don’t you invite Billy over to eat with you so you don’t have to rush?”
Brandon thought about how Billy would probably love to spend time at his house. While Brandon’s parents were pretty much a typical middle class family, Billy lived in a run-down house with weeds growing in the yard. His parents weren’t home much and when they were, they were either fighting or drinking, sometimes both. Even though they lived close to each other, the neighborhood couldn’t have been more different.
“Sure mom, that’s a great idea. I’m done now, can I go?”
“Okay, but you be back by lunchtime and bring Billy with you.”
He grabbed his backpack and headed out the door. Billy was already standing by the stop sign down at the end of the block and had his things in a wrinkled Wal-Mart bag.
As they headed towards the woods, they talked about school and how things might change in the coming year. Mostly, they goofed off and talked about exploring the area, joking about what they’d do if they found a bag of money or a dead person—both of which sounded equally exciting.
Entering the wooded area was a relief because the trees made the temperature drop considerably. It was almost pleasant in there and the breeze cooled the sweat on their necks. The plants and detritus were greener, and the whole area smelled different—more like they were exploring a great forest surrounding a medieval castle instead of the woods near their neighborhood.
At first, they simply wandered around exploring before eventually heading towards the creek where they’d hang out and try to cool off.
“Hey, what’d you bring?” Brandon asked.
“I swiped a beer from my dad and a couple of candy bars.”
Brandon didn’t know about drinking the beer. It wasn’t as if he was some kind of prude, but he’d heard all about what it did to Billy’s dad and if that’s how someone acted when they were drunk he wanted no part of it. He’d seen the bruises on Billy in the past and figured his dad must have done it during one of his benders. He’d asked Billy about it, but his face darkened and his had simply said that he didn’t want to talk about it. Why would Billy even bring something like that in the first place?
As they walked through the woods they came across an abandoned well. The weeds had grown over it, almost covering it up entirely, yet they could still see a bit of moss-covered stone.
Billy stepped closer to it and leaned down.
“Whoa, we could have fallen in that thing, Billy. What are you doing, be careful!”
“I want to look inside.”
As Billy pried on the wood covering the well, they both heard something inside. It sounded almost like a rustling noise with a slight roar to it.
“Dude, what if it’s a huge bug? There can’t be anything in there that isn’t a snake or a bug or something.”
Finally, one of the boards came off, knocking Billy onto his butt. Brandon laughed at him and then walked a little closer to see what was in there.
The creature they saw looked somewhat like a lavender colored lizard, yet it had wings that were golden. It was making mewling noises and looked like a baby of some sort.
“What the hell is that?”
“I don’t know Billy, but I’ve never seen anything like it.”
About that time the little creature opened its mouth and a tiny stream of fire shot out, similar to those lighters used to light the grill.
“Holy shit, Brandon did you see that?”
“Yeah, I saw it. It’s a freaking dragon or something.”
“Those don’t exist, right? I mean, how is it possible?” said Billy.
Brandon reached down and held out his hand. “Come here little guy, we won’t hurt you.”
The little creature was hesitant at first but slowly flapped its wings and settled on Brandon’s fingertip.
“Holy shit,” Billy yelled again, scaring Brandon a little.
“Shh, be quiet you’ll scare him,” Brandon said in a whisper.
“Heck, how do you even know if it’s a girl or a boy?”
“Who cares? It’s an honest-to-God dragon, I think.”
“What’ll we do with it? What’s it eat, how will we keep it?”
“I don’t know, but he seems to like me. I’ll take him home and keep him,” Brandon said.
“Why do you get to take him home? It was my idea to open up the well and look inside.”
Brandon felt himself start to get angry. “What’s Billy going to do anyway? Take the dragon home and raise it around his drunk dad?”
And with that very thought swimming around in his head, the sun beating down on his face, and his anger growing with every second, Brandon bent down and let the dragon climb down to his backpack.
He stepped forward where Billy was standing by the well and yelled in his face, “You’re not taking him!”
“Oh, and why not? My house isn’t good enough? Why are we arguing about it anyway? Maybe we can take turns or something.”
All Brandon could do was think of how Billy would ruin what they had found, how he’d tell everyone, and maybe even become famous. All the while, Brandon would become nothing—just someone who was there and let the opportunity slip through his fingers.
While they argued, the little dragon sat there on Brandon’s backpack—cocking its head to the side every so often when the boys raised their voices.
Brandon had never been an angry child and had never even been in a fight, but suddenly he pushed Billy as hard as he could.
Watching him fall into the well meant nothing to Brandon; he simply watched his friend disappear, his screams following him down until they could hardly be heard.
Brandon reached down and tossed Billy’s things in after him—the Wal-Mart bag, which floated down slowly as the breeze almost lifted it back out. The beer was next, and then Brandon sat down on the grass beside the well, eating the candy bars until he could no longer hear Billy calling his name.
He had no idea how long he sat there, but the wind had started to pick up and the light was fading. He spent the hours talking to the dragon, telling it how he had to do what was necessary.
He knew he’d be in trouble for being out so late, but he didn’t care. The dragon hopped up on his shoulder and Brandon headed for home.
His mom yelled at him when he finally got home, and he was grounded, but he didn’t care. He’d carried the little dragon in his backpack, sneaking it into his room where he put it in an old fish tank he found in the garage.
Brandon played with his dragon all weekend—watching it breathe tiny gusts of fire out of its mouth. He didn’t know what the dragon would eat but after looking on the Internet, it seemed that most sites implied that dragons were either carnivores or omnivores. The little dragon seemed content with the bits of raw hamburger Brandon took from the meat his mom had thawing for dinner, and he had put a saucer of water in the tank for when he didn’t have the dragon out. While the dragon seemed to be able to fly, it never left the tank while Brandon was sleeping, as far as he could tell.
On Monday, Brandon was supposed to go to his grandmother’s house and while he didn’t want to, he couldn’t very well tell his mom why not. Besides, she was already asking about Billy, and he had no plans to discuss that. He simply told her that he hadn’t heard from him lately. Billy’s parents hadn’t even reported him missing as far as he knew so everything was fine.
After spending all day with his grandmother, he was finally picked up and could go home to see his prized possession, the dragon he named Fraener. As he ran to his room the first thing he noticed was that the tank was gone.
“Mom! Where’s my dragon? What’d you do?” Brandon screamed.
“Oh, that thing? I threw it out. I’ve told you about bringing home lizards and frogs; I won’t have them in my house.”